As I walked through the door into Oyamel restaurant , I left the streets of Washington, D.C. behind and was enveloped in a cultural experience infused with the biodiversity of the Monarch Butterfly and the urban touch of Mexico City street markets. The icy chill left itself at the door as the Spanish trio band and unique cocktails warmed reception attendees weary of a long, bitter winter. This DC Penn Quarter resto owned by celebrity chef and food advocate José Andrés is preparing to transform into a large Mexican market for the seventh annual Tequila and Mezcal Festival. I was invited to preview the featured food and drinks.
The festival will be a chance to escape city life and enjoy eating foods focused around traditional Mexican ingredients--but with a culinary twist.
José Andrés, the mastermind behind the festival, stopped by the preview and delivered an impromptu speech explaining this celebration's vision and grandeur. Always a showman, his joyous personality infused this food and drink preview with life and sabor.
The menu, meant to be paired with tequila and mezcal drinks, kept the crowd coming back for more. The staff served a total of about ten different dishes ranging from handmade guacamole to Hawaiian Ono, a sweet fish named after the Hawaiian word meaning "delicious." It was served raw on a bed of slaw with peanuts, mango, cucumber, onion and lime--sweet and savory ingredients.
The BBQ Pork Tacos were the dish I savored most. I could not get enough of them! The pig from which the tacos are stuffed was the centerpiece of the preview. Perched on a table slightly above the crowd, it seemed to preside over us, later to tantalize our taste buds.
The food was delicious but the drinks, which are the focus of the festival, were created with the guidance of a sophisticated palate and visual mastermind. Each drink was crafted to pay tribute to the spirits that hail from Mexico.
From unique geographical regions, each spirit boasts its own distinct taste. If we were to conduct a genetic analysis of tequila and mezcal, tequila would be the recessive gene and mezcal the dominant gene.
Tequila is smooth, light, and refreshing; it is meant to lightly compliment the food with which it is paired on the menu. The festival will introduce ham-infused tequila which is a spin-off of chicken-infused tequila, flavors added to give this spirit depth. Unfortunately, it did not arrive in time for the preview. But José Andrés who requested it assured us it will arrive in time for adventurous festival goers.
I had never tried mezcal before the preview. Smoky and strong, it brings depth to any cocktail. As the "dominant," it is the main show in every featured drink with the other ingredients merely supporting and complimenting its flavor. The Rosa de Oaxaca, infused with raspberry, lemon, and hibiscus, is the mezcal drink to try!
Live far from the nation's capital or have a demanding schedule that won't allow you to make it to the festival? I've got your covered with a cocktail recipe to try at home. The recipe is my favorite drink of the night--the light, refreshing Miramar.
The Wise Latina Club PSA: Remember your ID that proves you're 21 and over when buying your spirits.
Oyamel's Miramar Tequila Cocktail Recipe
1 cup hot water
1 teaspoon Oaxacan sea salt
2 ounces tequila blanco
½ ounce yellow chartreuse
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce pineapple juice
¾ ounce simple syrup
2 pineapple leaves, for garnish
Combine the hot water and sea salt. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved. Allow to cool and then place in the refrigerator. Place the salt in a spray bottle for use.
Combine all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake for 35 seconds. Strain the cocktail into a highball glass filled with ice.
Garnish with the salt water mist and pineapple leaves.
Oyamel is hosting the Tequila and Mezcal Festival from March 10th through Sunday, March 23rd. Paying tribute to Mexico’s thriving street food culture, on Monday, the restaurant kicks off its festival by transforming its traditional setting into a giant marketplace. More festival details on Oyamel’s website.
A food enthusiast and native Georgia Peach, Haley recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development. Currently interning in the office of Congressman Sanford Bishop, she is passionate about the outdoors, improved access to quality education for all, public policy, and documenting "from stress to success in the city." Click here to read more about and connect with Haley.What are your favorite tequila cocktails?